Monday, December 18, 2006

Henry VIII as Project Sponsor?

Timothy at Carpe Factum has a great piece on project sponsorship. I've also added a link to his site which consistently brings high-brow humor to bear on difficult down-to-earth situations. Perhaps the latin for "Git 'er done" is the tip off.

Anyway, he cites five qualifications for a project sponsor, including the ability to clearly articulate the point of the project and the likelihood that he will be around as long as the project. But you really should read the whole post ... including a brief architectural history of Hampton Court.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Politeness and Project Management

I think Mark at Vertabase has some good things to say about communications as the key to why projects fail. He suggests that "Politeness can kill a project". And although I have been accused sometimes of saving my tact for a more important future display, I’m not sure that “politeness” per se is the problem. I believe that as a project manager, it is essential to be polite, but it is also essential to be direct and specific (and to require your team members to be direct and specific). Vague answers do not help … unless you count “helping to avoid blame”. Ditto for letting “consensus” determine due dates.

Jim Collins wrote a great article for Harvard Business Review a few years ago entitled “The Triumph of Humility and Fierce Resolve”. He was addressing executive leadership, but I think the title could easily become the motto of a successful project manager. Even a polite one.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

Winter Baseball

"The Perfessor" from the comic strip Shoe once remarked that football plays an important role in American society ... it keeps the brain warm between the World Series and Spring Training. This came to mind when a friend recently reminded me a response Rogers Hornsby once gave to the question of how he spent his winters:

"People ask me what I do in the winter, when there's no baseball. I'll tell you what I do: I stare out the window and wait for spring."

All of this brought to mind my disappointment at this year's near miss by the Astros and my elation at last year's NL championship. And so, having only recently launched my blogging voyage, I decided to dredge up a short piece I emailed several friends after last year's success. While the triggering event is dated, the insight is as valid (or not) as it was the night it struck me.

I was dozing in and out the night after the game that sent the Astros to the World Series. It was that time of day when the most convoluted and obscure philosophical problems seem to suddenly become crystal clear, and it suddenly occured to me that team sports, and baseball in particular, are a wonderful confirmation of the principles of federalism. After 43 years of waiting, we were going to the World Series. We had suffered from several near misses though the years (as well as extended period of genuine mediocrity), but now we were about to be ushered into the promised land. How is it that the we includes people like me? he of the .037 little league batting average? he whose slow-pitch softball career came to an end two decades ago? How is that possible?

Clearly, the principles of federalism are at work. The current crop of Astros represent me and my aspirations for victory in battle and the attendant glory. I cringe with them when things go wrong; I share their despair when victory is wrenched from their expectant grasp by a 9th inning homerun; and I somehow actually participate in the glory of ultimate victory; taking to myself some reflection (at least) of the praises that they have earned on my behalf. I didn't elect them to be my federal representatives, and they certainly did not invite me to the party in any formal sense; somehow it was just part of the natural order of things. Ordered, that is, by the One who orders all things.

When I try to capture these thoughts in the light of day, they seem somewhat less profound; less helpful as an insight into the meaning of life. But that night, it seemed that I had hit on an essential truth: we want to be included; we want to share in the glory. And that is what God invites us to do through Jesus Christ, our federal representative, who has earned eternal glory and invites us to join with Him in the eternal celebration of that victory.

Maybe its just baseball. Maybe its just entertainment. But for a moment that night, it seemed to me to be life's ultimate metaphor.


The whole idea that you can't manage what you don't measure is absurd. Among the faulty assumptions is the notion that anything important is precisely quantifiable. Furthermore, managing people as if they were mere multidimensional vectors of quantifiably measurable attributes is not likely to build trust and loyalty ... key components of long-term success. As Meg Ryan points out in You've Got Mail, "Whatever else anything is, it ought to start by being personal.

I stumbled across
this article at Slow Leadership which expands upon these ideas. It also makes the point, very consistent with theory of constraints, that measuring everything is not the most effective way to improve anything. This looks like an interesting site.

"Heaven save us from the audit mentality that measures everything and knows the value of nothing. And from those who no longer believe in the power of rational argument and proof to convince others to do what is in the best interests of all."


Even the liberals seem to mourn the dumbing down of American education. Who is this guy Aristophanes, anyway?

One and Many

One of the commenters on an earlier post suggested that I separate out my project management comments into a separate blog. This actually raises a broader issue, one which can be viewed from a number of angles. So here is my attempt to explain the eclecticity (sic) of my postings.

Some of you may have come here, perhaps even on purpose, expecting to find some stuff about project management. You may be wondering, "Why can't he just stick to the topic and leave all this religious stuff out of it?" Others may have come looking for insights on Christian worldview and are wondering why I waste space on anything as mundane as project management. My response to both groups is that there really is no neutrality. It is not possible for me (or you) to put up partitions in our lives such that we manage projects without regard to what we believe to be good, true, beautiful, significant, etc. Neither is it possible to maintain any sort of sacred/secular dichotomy; somehow excluding our vocations from our calling as Christians. [As an aside, notice that 'vocation' is just latin for 'calling'; we apparently use the foreign word to distance ourselves grammatically from the caller.] Ultimately, everything that is is both 'one' and 'many'; both connected to everything else in relationship and individually significant in its distinctive diversity.

If this sounds weird and you have not already abandoned this site as hopeless, I would encourage the following:
  • For those non-Christians who want their project management without the accompanying dose of Christian worldview, please purchase a copy of Trinity and Reality and read the introduction and first chapter. The least you can expect from this meager investment ($16 and 17 pages) is that you will understand Christians better. I hope, of course, that you will finish the whole book and begin to consult the source as well.

  • For those Christians who would prefer to avoid offense by leaving their Christianity out of their "work life", please purchase a copy of Against Christianity and read the whole thing. (Yes ... to whom more has been given, more is required, but it is a short book.) The least you can expect from this is that you will understand why "the world" tends to dismiss us so often as irrelevant.

For advanced students in either camp, feel free to begin the other group's assignment.